I have a list of wine blogs I read frequently, 1WineDude.com is one of them, even if he uses way too much italicized and bolding in his posts. Maybe it has to do with SEO, whatever. He's a good writer, a popular one, and an all around good dude. His posts are insightful and show a level of thought a few degrees deeper than almost every other blogger. We met last year at the Wine Blogger's Conference in Walla Walla, Washington and I can say with a good degree of certainty that he knows his shit. Plus he's got a great palate, one that I respect.
Love-fest over, I read a post of his the other day called "Wake Up, Wine People: Boomers Won’t Be Buying Your Wine Forever" and it really resonated with me. As a Millennial, I often feel like I am not taken seriously (as a knowledgeable wine drinker/etc) by basically anyone older than about 35. Strong words, I know. Please take note that I did leave an exception in my statement. For the purposes of this exercise, let's assume that I should in fact be taken seriously by people older than 35.
Joe discusses a couple of key points in his blog, the first one being that many Millennials get age-profiled the moment they walk into a winery, tasting room, retail store, or any other wine event. How are we profiled? We're not taken seriously as wine drinkers, wine lovers, wine fans, etc. Why does this happen? My generation doesn't (yet) have the money and time to travel around frequently, or the knowledge to discuss the finer points of wine with the 64 year old wine geek pouring your wines as a volunteer. Often, our visit to the tasting room is our first to that winery, and often it's our first ever taste of the wines being poured. Therefore, we are often brushed off and ignored or given sub-par service, on the hospitality side. Swinging around to the digital side, most wineries have no coherent strategy for marketing themselves to us by reaching out, creating conversation and relationships, and encouraging us Millennials to be brand ambassadors.
If there's blame to assign, it does fall to both sides of the argument because Millennials aren't known (always) for their adherence to tasting room decorum. Unfortunately there are many instances of stupid Millennials coming in drunk, acting idiotic, and even verbally abusing employees. Behavior like that is unacceptable, period. No matter the age group. A lot of it stems from immaturity, which (we hope) will leave with time, turning those drunken idiots into customers. Still, we Millennials should be aware of how to act in public.
Joe reasons that while marketing towards baby-boomers and Gen-X'ers is smart today, too many wineries are ignoring the need to start laying the foundations for relationships with the millennial generation. I think he nails it. He makes a great point when he says: "But I’m really stumped as to why the the attitude in the wine biz that what worked in the past will continue to work forever is still so prevalent. The “it’s just a fad” argument is totally bogus. You can bet on the tools (twitter, facebook, etc.) changing and losing/gaining relevance, but you can’t bet on the conversations themselves losing relevance, and you certainly can’t bet on wine not being impacted by those conversations..."
Sure, the "currently-hot-social-media-platform" will change over the years, but the fact that Millennials will embrace each one is not going to change. Neither is the fact that collectively, that pantheon of social media platforms will always be in use (and therefore relevant) because we grew up with them the same way we did watching Britney Spears self-destruct. It's going to be a part of our collective consciousness and will always be a way for wineries to reach out to their potential new customers. Obviously, a good winery marketing team will respond with agilitiy and forward-thinking strategies. That is, if wineries actually read what Joe has to say and realize the fundamental need to shift at least some of their thinking to that of a millennial wine drinker.
It looks as if, between those two points, any winery reading his blog could realize the need to shift some of their marketing strategies a bit, and they didn't even have to shell out the big bucks for a consultant. Before everyone gets worked up into a lather, I will say that there are wineries out there doing a good job of shifting a percentage of marketing efforts towards millennials, invariably they're the younger wineries though, not the monolithic old-guard of Napa and Sonoma. Even giant conglomerates like Constellation are working their own strategies, though I fear that by dumbing-down and casualizing man's relationship with wine, they're going to have trouble once millennial palates mature and start to seek out something more than sweet riesling, sweet red blends, sweet moscato..Get the picture?
Reiterating what I believe to be the truth, now is the time for wineries to start laying the foundations for a relationship with Millennials: by reaching out to them through familiar channels, de-mystifying wine, emphasizing wine's place at the dinner table and with food, showing Millennials how to act in tasting rooms and at events, making them feel welcome and valued, and showing them a good time!
Pretty soon, I'll be as old as Gen-X'ers are right now, and will have their wealth levels. What do you want my relationship with wine to be like? Are you willing to help me build and sustain one, and especially, a relationship with your brand?